Saturday, August 15, 2009

I think the hardest part of writing is revising

And by that I mean the following: A novelist has to create the piece of marble and then chip away to find the figure in it. Chaim Potok

This is so where I am right now! I came up with a(n almost) finished first draft of a new story. Even have an awesome title already laid out. I brainstormed with my buddy and now- now! It’s not coming out like I want it to. I have my marble, I do! But I just can’t see the figure in it!

So what do you do? When you’re stuck and for the life of you can’t figure out how to turn your block into a beautifully sculpted piece of art? Share. Please. I need to know I’m not alone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The first draft is the skeleton...

" --just bare bones. It's like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it's still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me."
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor author of Shiloh.

I’m working on a scene that’s held me up. On my YA novel, my main character, Diane is being enrolled in school. She’s in the front office. But the scene is missing something. I have the bare bones- Diane, her foster mother, the dean, and a really cute burn out. But it doesn’t shine. It lacks some muscle.

Bones are the structure. The body’s support, but our muscles make us move. For a story those muscles are the description.
If you’re anything like me, you might be description disabled. I have the hardest time translating the setting that I see so clearly in my head to the page. Well have no fear the Bookshelf Muse is here. This is a wonderful site that has soooo much help for description. Take a peek and explore. Tell me what you think.

This week our assignment is to find a scene, passage, paragraph that can be strengthened by adding or deepening descriptions. Then post it here so we can look at it. Do a before and an after.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Some of the best writing comes when you rehash.

It's in the retelling of stories that the improvement comes. I compare it to preparing a lens for a telescope. For months, all you're doing is grinding it into the generalized shape of what a lens should be. Once the rough-cut bowl is formed, it's not going to reflect an image. In writing you can have your skeleton, you're structure, but it doesn't reflect. The reflection comes in the polish. What a person will see, what a person will feel, comes in the polish. When you finish polishing your writing, it forms the image you're trying to create." By Donald Perry, free lance writer and author of Above the Jungle Floor

I got some pretty hard news today, a story I submitted got rejected. I got lots of feedback about what was wrong with it. All the comments were true- even if they hurt- but the editor made valid points.

I walked around in a depressed sort of funk, but after being yelled at (thanks Dixie) I realized that either I could give up or learn from this rejection and improve my craft. And after some thought, that is what the goal of this blog is after all. Telling a story, for me is the easy part (okay not the slaving over the computer for months and writing 100K words- but the getting the idea.) I love the spark of a new idea, but it's the grinding and the sanding and polishing (you know the WORK) that turns a whimsical idea in a writer's brain into a well crafted story.

The idea in my head needs (and quite frankly deserves) to reflect a greater image that can touch another person. That is my goal.

What's yours?

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing…." Bernard Malamud

I have no idea what Mr. Malamud is talking about. But I need to find out! I love telling stories and I love writing them down. I'm a pantser, so finding out what happens each scene drives me to finish a story.

But what is holding me up- REVISIONS!!!!

I have several completed manuscripts that I need to do something with! I want to be a writer and being published is a huge part of that. Unfortunately, no matter how good a story is (and I think they're good.) Each manuscript NEEDS to be revised and polished to make them shine so they can find their way out of the slush pile (that is after I submit it) and into the hands of a wonderful agent.

I know the perfect agent is waiting out there for me, but she won't ever know she wants to represent me if I don't submit. I can't to submit until I revise.

Which brings me back to Mr. Malamud. (One of the great Jewish American authors of the 20th century.) He said, "I write a book or a short story three times. Once to understand her, the second time to improve her prose, and a third to compel her to say what it still must say."

So the object of this blog is learn how to love revising. Join me on my journey as I learn and share how to revise a story to make it say what it must!